Chapter 24: From the Ashes of Din's Fire…

"W-wait! You could…You could come with us!" Tetra exclaimed suddenly, her words hesitant at first but filling with hope as she continued, "Yes, of course. We have a ship. We can find it. We will find it. The land that will be the next Hyrule. So…"

So…why hadn't he? Why had King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule stayed behind? He had told them both it was because the land they found would not be Hyrule, but that wasn't a valid explanation in Kid's mind. Just because that land wouldn't be Hyrule didn't mean that King, as he had taken to calling him, had to drown with the kingdom. It didn't mean that he wouldn't be welcome in the new land, so why didn't he come with them?

This question had plagued Kid's mind ever since the ancient kingdom had fallen victim to the suffocating blue waves of his world. It had gotten better over the past year, for he found ways to distract himself, and time was a helpful medicine too. Now though….it all came flooding back to him. His entire quest to save his sister, accompanied by King, who turned out to be more important than he had ever imagined. While he may have been Tetra's ancestor, he had been Kid's friend and guided him through his adventure until the end.

Tears threatened, but he held them back. No one else was crying and suddenly Kid felt guilty for having the tears pooling behind his eyes in the first place. Tetra had gone through worse. He knew that her mother had been close to her. She rarely spoke of her mother, but when she did, her eyes shined with admiration and her words were always chosen carefully and with pride. Kid didn't know how Tetra's mother had died, she'd never told him, and it was a sore subject among her crew, but nonetheless he could tell that her mother had died valiantly, most likely fighting.

Kid glanced at Tetra who was seated next to him. She had her head bowed and eyes closed, possibly trying to hide the fact that she wanted to let tears mix with the brilliant red of the tiles. He'd never seen her cry before, but there was a first time for everything. Given the circumstances he wouldn't blame her. She had just gone through a nightmare. The only difference was, she'd been awake the entire time. Tetra's eyes suddenly opened and she caught him looking at her. Her eyes were as blue as the depths of the ocean and just as suffocating at the moment for they did not hide tears in them. They hid fire. She turned away from him with a quiet huff.

Confused, Kid returned to staring at the ground like everyone else, his tears forgotten. He knew Tetra well enough by now to know when she was mad at him. Usually he knew what he had done to displease her, but this time the reason eluded him. It wasn't like he had summoned the monster. In fact, he had helped pull her out of its spell with the reminder of her deceased mother. Suddenly he understood her enmity towards him. He had practically announced the fact in front of everyone. He knew that telling their companions about their home was definitely not acceptable. Their family situations were a different matter though. Sure, it wasn't necessary information to share, but it wouldn't hurt their cause if their companions knew about it. Still, Kid knew that Tetra realized this as well. Her hostility came from the fact that the information wasn't his to distribute. It was hers, and he'd given it away without a second thought, but if he hadn't Tetra would have been dead. They would have had no way to convince her of the illusion. Kid decided it was the monster's fault, not his, and if she was going to be cross with anyone it should be with whoever created the monster.

He didn't know how much longer they sat there reflecting on the dark deed they had been forced to perform before they decided to progress down the remainder of the hallway. When they reached the end a large arched door was set into the left wall. It did not glow like the walls of the room. It stood plainly against the red backdrop of the hallway. A scarlet gem was set into its center, just like the first door they had encountered, and broad stroked carvings dusted its surface.

Kid lifted up the door and Link helped him keep it up as they all filed through into the next room. A blast of hot air hit his face when he stepped inside and as the door slammed shut behind him, a distinct grind of metal caused him to turn around. A steel grate had slid over the door, shutting them in like animals in a cage. Turning his attention back to the huge room laid out before him he immediately noticed the nature of the floor. A circular metal grate rested beneath their feet while the walls bled with the same strange light as in the other levels of the temple. What astonished him was not the floor itself though. It was what lie underneath it that startled him. A pool of lava bubbled far beneath the metal ground.

Something compelled him to look up, and Kid was left staring at what he perceived to be a closed blossom made entirely of fire. He watched, along with his companions who had followed his gaze towards the high domed ceiling, as the flower shifted a little from its perch, sprinkling down embers like otherworldly lightening bugs. It detached completely from the ceiling and unfolded as it drew closer to the ground. Before it hit the metal floor it succeeded in fully uncovering itself and a great beat of massive its wings kept it aloft, floating above the floor. Its effort succeeded in creating a powerful gust of wind that blew them off their feet and into the wall.

As he groggily stood up, shaking his head to clear it, he finally got a good look at the guardian. It wasn't a flower like he'd first thought. It was a gigantic bird constructed completely of orange flames. He had a bad history with birds. Kid drew his weapon as his companions were still picking themselves up off the floor. The bird, whose size seemed to rival that of the Helmaroc King's, looked them over before letting out a surprisingly melodic cry that almost sounded to Kid like laughter. It threw back its head for an instant which gave everyone enough time to finish getting to their feet before it unleashed a jet of fire from its long golden beak straight at them. Kid dove to the right and rolled to distance himself further from the deadly fire. Glancing behind him he realized that he was alone. The others had fled in the opposite direction.

The guardian seemed unsure of who to go after, but it found a way to compromise. Drifting closer to the ground, it spread out its magnificent gold tipped wings of orange and red and spun around, creating a tornado of fire around it. As if this wasn't imposing enough, jets of fire randomly spewed out of the funnel and Kid was forced to run to avoid getting hit. He needed a plan. The others were on the other side of the room dodging the tendrils of fire when they came their way and Kid was trying to make his way to them while doing the same.

'Okay, think,' he ordered himself, 'What can defeat a giant bird made of fire?' An idea began to form in his mind, and as he became lost in thought a tentacle of flame shot straight for him. He noticed it just in time and ducked low, so it went sailing over his head. The fire scattered when it hit the wall next to him. Kid sheathed his sword to dig in his pouch for his bow while keeping a watchful eye out for any fire that was bold enough to reach its burning fingers out to him.

Kid had just managed to pull out his bow and quiver of arrows when the bird of flames finally stopped twirling around the center of the room. It flew up towards the ceiling, elegant tail feathers leaving behind a trail of lingering embers in its wake. Kid watched it as he slung the quiver over his shoulder, wondering what it was planning now. He found out a minute later.

The fire encased guardian charged towards the center of the room. Before its head would have met with the ground it twirled its body around so its talons grasped the metal grated floor and slammed its entire weight down. The floor shuddered once, as if the bird intimidated it too, and dropped. Unprepared for this, Kid stumbled in a futile attempt to keep his footing. It wasn't long before he fell on his backside with a shout. His companion's screams of surprise mixed with his own as they lost the battle with gravity.

Suddenly everything came to an abrupt stop, and the guardian released its grip on the floor, taking to the sky once again. Kid scrambled to his feet, grabbing arrows that had fallen out of his quiver. Looking up he noticed that the ceiling was higher than before. 'No,' he realized, 'the floor's lower.' He peered down below the grates to confirm his suspicion. The pool of deadly liquid was dramatically closer than before. The surrounding air was thicker too and Kid was surprised that his clothes didn't catch on fire right then. Glancing at his ring he noticed that it shone with an intensity he hadn't had the pleasure of viewing before. It was probably the only thing that was keeping him from bursting into flames at the moment.

Kid turned his attention back to the bird. It had taken a particular interest in the group of three on the other side of the room. This was a good thing for him. It would give him time to power up his arrow. While he had plenty of magic, he did not have quite as many arrows as he'd like. Seeing as he only had ten, he'd have to be careful.

Another difficulty presented itself as well. The magic that the Queen of Fairies had endowed him with wasn't that simple to use. It used normal arrows but coating the tip in the exact magic he wanted was a different thing entirely. If he wanted fire arrows he had to call forth the fire magic from where the fairy queen had placed it inside of him. To do that, he had to entice it with thoughts of heat and fire. In this environment he'd be able to ignite the tip of his arrow without effort, but that was fire. Ice was a different story in his current situation.

Actually, it had always been the one he had struggled with the most in the first place. The Great Sea never saw the wonder of winter. It was pretty warm no matter the season. Ice Ring Isle seemed to bottle the cold weather up all year round, so the rest of the islands could never feel it. Kid lived a life of tropical weather, so imagining cold things was not easy despite his many travels.

Kid notched an arrow, wincing slightly at the stinging in his hands. Climbing over that hole earlier hadn't been too kind to his palms. While his Ash-Fire Ring had spared his hands from burns it did nothing to protect him from the rough edge of the wall. In the end, the jagged rock did a good job of scraping up his hands.

Trying to ignore the way the wood of his bow rubbed against the tiny wounds, he attempted to call forth the ice magic. 'Ice Ring Isle is cold,' he reminded himself, trying to remember the biting of the air, and the ice that had caused him to fall so many times as well as the frigid water surrounding the island. Just as he felt the power begin to come out of its shell a blast of fire shot out in front of him. Kid stumbled back, startled at how close it had been to his face.

To his chagrin, the ice had retreated just as he had from the hungry flames. Paying attention to the guardian once again he realized that it was executing another one of its fire spins in the center of the room. He'd have to keep moving to lower his chances of being struck, but there was a problem. Running generated even more heat than what was already in the room which complicated his goal even more.

Kid rolled out of the way of another jet of flame and notched his arrow again, attempting to concentrate. 'Ice, think ice,' he willed himself as he attempted to keep out of harm's way. He pictured the ice keese that had succeeded at immobilizing him multiple times and the flurry of snowflakes that persisted even inside the deepest cavities of the permanently frozen island. He felt the power emerging from his chest and traveling invisibly, with a slightly chilled touch, towards the weapon in his hands. A blue tint covered the arrowhead. Almost, but not quite there yet. It just needed further encouragement. He imagined a cold wind whistling through the sheets of ice on the isle and the tip of his arrow was encased in jagged ice. Frost flowed off the arrowhead and blew towards his face. Kid didn't mind this, it only helped him hold his concentration and provided him with some relief from the scorching heat of the room.

Aiming his arrow at the dancing flame-bird in the center of the room, Kid pulled back the bowstring. After all that effort, he didn't want to miss. 'Wait and….Fire!' Kid thought to himself. He released the arrow, but noticed his mistake as soon as he did so. Immediately he wished he could grab it back, but it was too late. The arrowhead burst into flames, overpowering the ice in just a second and rushing to meet its mark in the center of the room.

The bird didn't even falter in its dizzying revolution for the arrow itself had burned away as soon as it touched the flames, its magic mixing with the raging inferno. Kid couldn't believe what he had just done and stared in disbelief at the tornado of fire that should have been an ice sculpture by now. He blamed the atmosphere for the condition of his arrow. Just one thought of fire, even out of context, shattered the fragile ice poised delicately on the tip of his arrow.

Begrudgingly pulling out another arrow from his quiver and running to escape a beam of fire, Kid attempted to retrieve the ice magic. It was only slightly easier this time because he could still feel the memory of its cold breath on his face. Finally managing to bath the tip of the arrow in the exact magic he wanted, Kid aimed once again at the bird who had paused in its spinning and was about to take to the sky again.

He wasn't going to let it get far though. Kid loosed the arrow and it cut through the air on a predestined course for the guardian. It struck the bird in the side, but this didn't seem to change the final result. The bird of flames became imprisoned in a shell of ice and fell the short distance to the ground. Kid quickly ran around to the other side of the room to meet up with his companions who were looking at the bird, confused at its sudden transformation.

"Did you do that?" Link wondered, noticing his arrival.

"Yup," he answered shortly.

"How?" Princess Zelda asked, seeming surprised by his previous answer.

"Um, ice arrows," Kid said, showing his bow to them in case they hadn't seen it.

"Where do you even get ice arrows from?" Link questioned, incredulous.

"Well, it's magic…" Kid trailed off, not sure if mentioning the Queen of Fairies was appropriate.

"Who cares what it is?" Tetra cut in suddenly, "It's not going to stay frozen forever, so if we're going to do something we have to do it soon."

Kid knew she was right and glanced over at the frozen guardian. It didn't show any signs of breaking free of its bonds but given another minute or two he knew that it probably would. Wordlessly, he exchanged his bow and arrows for his Skull Hammer, earning him a couple more baffled looks.

"Where do you get this stuff?" Link queried.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Tetra taunted.

"Yeah, I would. That's why I'm asking," Link returned.

Kid just shrugged and gripped the handle of the large hammer tighter before running towards the center of the room and swinging the head into the frozen bird with as much force as he could muster. The recoil sent him stumbling back a few steps. Once he regained his footing he raised his head. To his dismay he had not shattered it. He didn't understand. That usually worked with one hit.

"Hit it again!" Tetra advised from somewhere behind him. He raised the Skull Hammer again, this time bringing it down vertically instead of horizontally. This didn't get him the result he wanted either, and he lost his balance, ending up on the hot metal floor. The recoil was not fun to deal with, and he was reminded instantly of why he chose to use the hammer as little as possible. Kid was quick to get to his feet but reluctant to try again. He was barely cracking the surface.

"Let me try," Link spoke up, approaching him from behind. Kid turned to look and was surprised to find his companion holding a large ball crafted from metal, a long chain attached to it.

"Whoa, what's that?" Kid wondered, staring at the weapon in awe. Just looking at it he knew that it held power.

"It's cool right?" Link said, flashing him a smile.

"Epic!" Kid agreed.

"Stop talking about weapons like they're toys and do something already!" Tetra shouted at them.

"You might want to stand back. I don't want to hit you accidentally," Link suggested. Kid did as he was told, keeping the hammer in his hands in case it was needed again.

He watched in amazement as Link twirled the weapon in the air for a few moments before launching it towards the paralyzed being. It connected with brutal force and the ice shattered into pieces, freeing the creature inside. That wasn't supposed to happen. The bird was supposed to shatter with the ice.

The guardian's fiery plumage wasn't as vibrant as usual. Its glow was faint and it didn't even attempt to fly. Link put away the ball and chain and distanced himself from the creature. As Kid replaced his Skull Hammer and tried to retrieve his bow the bird ignited in a flurry of fire, brighter than before. With a strangled cry the fire dispersed and ash floated down in its place. The bird had been completely destroyed.

Once the remains of the guardian had settled into a messy pile in the middle of the room a strangely shaped bottle came to rest on the peak. Inside pulsed a red orb. That was Din's Tear, he was sure of it! Before any of them could rush forward to grab it, the ashes of the guardian ignited and the bird of flames unfolded its feathers of fire. It let out a loud cry as if to announce its arrival and beat its wings to get into the air.

Kid braced himself, so he wasn't blown away. Peering upward showed him that the guardian was very much alive. It flew around the room as if stretching its wings.

"Hey, doesn't it look smaller to you?" Tetra commented, gazing at the bird as well. Now that she mentioned it, it did. The body and wings that bore it weren't nearly as big as last time, and its beak was a bit shorter as well.

"I noticed that some of the ashes fell through the hole in the grate instead of resting on the pile. Maybe that's why?" Princess Zelda suggested.

"If that's true then if we can get all of its ashes to fall into the lava then it can't revive itself," Link pointed out.

"Or we could just take the bottle from the ashes, so it can't regenerate," Kid proposed. The last guardian had been powered by the tear, so it would make to sense for this one to work in a similar way.

Link considered this idea before nodding, "Yeah, that would probably be easier."

The guardian had finished its aerial show and flew towards the domed ceiling. Kid knew what that meant. It was going to dive towards the ground and force the floor down again. He knew that they couldn't stand another one of those hits. They'd be swimming in lava if it succeeded.

"Hey Kid, you might want to hurry up with that ice arrow," Tetra urged him upon coming to the same realization.

Kid said nothing, just pulled out his bow and arrows. He notched an arrow, trying to call back the sensation of frost on his face. He couldn't.

"Not to rush you or anything, but there is a giant bird made of flames coming closer," Link reminded him after a minute.

"I know…" Kid hummed through gritted teeth, trying and failing to call forth the magic the Queen of Fairies bestowed upon him. He had almost had it, until Link mentioned fire. There wasn't enough time to try again though. The guardian crashed into the ground.

As the floor fell they all struggled to remain upright.

"If I'm recalling what Eldin said correctly, if we run, we'll be okay," Princess Zelda reminded them all. Kid remembered what the spirit had said as well and trusted the princess in her judgment. Lava bubbled up through the grated floor until the metal was submerged in the thick liquid. They were all already running and Kid was surprised upon seeing the lava cool immediately beneath his pounding feet. The hardened rock softened mere seconds after his foot had left it and it soon returned to its original state.

Kid reached for another arrow since he had abandoned the one he had been holding in favor of staying upright on the way down.

"Are you stupid?" Tetra called to him over her shoulder, "There's no use in that now! Even if you could destroy it like last time, the lava might destroy the bottle!" As much as he didn't want to admit it, she was correct. Besides that, he wasn't positive that he could even summon the magic with the lava at his feet. Heat waves drifted off of the lava like smoke and wavered in the air, distorting it. Kid dropped the arrow back into his quiver and concentrated on running. He quickened his pace and tried to step harder when the ground seemed to hesitate to form beneath his feet.

The bird of flames half-heartedly sent a jet of flame their way every now and then, probably hoping that one of them would trip, but they dodged each attack with relevant ease. Kid wracked his brain for ideas. Down here they were completely helpless. They'd tire of running eventually and their exhaustion would kill them.

The bird of flames appeared to be frustrated at their lack of drowning in the lava. Dropping down to the center of the floor, the guardian plunged its feet into the rippling liquid as if it was water. With a sing song screech it beat its powerful wings and the floor slowly began to rise up. None of them stopped running before they were sure all of the lava had dripped off of the floor and back into the pool beneath them. As they caught their breath the guardian delivered the metal floor to its original position, suspended high above the lava.

Seeing this as his chance to do something before the bird decided to make another move against them, Kid quickly loaded his bow with an arrow.

"What's cold?" he asked Tetra hoping his friend could give him some quick inspiration.

Her answer shouldn't have surprised him. "Ice," Tetra smirked at him.

"How about…Zelda's attitude," Link, who had overheard the question, proposed which earned him a cold glare from the princess.

"Snow's cold. So are mountaintops," Princess Zelda suggested after she finished reprimanding Link with her icy blue eyes. This answer granted him the inspiration he needed, and they all watched as the tip of his arrow sprouted a bud of ice.

Kid raised his bow and aimed it at the bird made of fire in the sky who was preparing to launch its own attack at them. He released his ice arrow at the same time that the guardian let out a beam of fire towards their small group. The two attacks met in the middle. His arrow tamed the leaping flames with a single touch and the petrified fire fell to the ground, shattering upon impact.

He was disappointed to see the guardian still ablaze in the sky, but he loaded another arrow as it prepared itself for an encore. The magic didn't need as much prompting as before and in no time, an ice crystal coated the arrowhead. Kid aimed just like last time and pulled back the bowstring as if he was going to release it. The bird let loose its jet of flame and everyone scattered in different directions to get out of the way.

The guardian couldn't recharge quickly enough to breathe another shot of fire before Kid's freezing cold arrow pierced its wings, the petal-like feathers made of flames. The bird was immobilized just like last time and it fell to the ground. Link took this as his cue and smashed the prison of ice with his unique weapon.

As the guardian weakly ruffled its wings, its vibrant color faded. With little warning it lit up in a dramatic explosion of red, orange, yellow and white fire. As most of its ashes became a heap on the floor and others were sacrificed to the lava below, Princess Zelda quickly stepped forward. She was forced to scramble up the side of the mound to reach the peak. When the bottled tear fell on top of the ashes she swiftly scooped it up and threw it with a flick of her wrist to Tetra.

Tetra caught the diamond shaped glass bottle and Princess Zelda hurried away from the guardian's remains, in case they had misjudged and the bird of flames birthed itself from its ashes again. After waiting for a few seconds a circle of blue light appeared near the door which was still sealed shut. Kid took that as proof that they'd won.

As they all headed towards the dark blue puddle Tetra handed the bottle containing Din's Tear to Link who stored it away in one of the many pouches fastened to his belt.

"Not that it matters now," Princess Zelda spoke up, addressing Link, "but could you explain to me how you managed to leave your iron boots at home yet brought along your ball and chain?"

Link laughed sheepishly, "Well, it's sort of a big weapon if you haven't noticed so I find it more convenient to keep it stored in my pouch rather than somewhere in my house."

"Anyway, I'm more interested in your ice arrows. How do you get magic like that? Did someone teach it to you?" Link asked, turning to Kid.

"Teach me?" Kid repeated, trying to buy time to think of an acceptable answer. Fortunately for him they reached their destination just then and he weaseled out of answering by stepping into the light. It whisked him away to the edge of Eldin's Spring.

Once the others joined him Eldin surprised them all by appearing, hovering above the now golden spring.

"Four chosen ones, I bear a warning. I had sensed an unknown power in my province before, but it didn't register to me as a problem at the time. Now it's come to my attention that it is indeed an issue. I sense that something is amiss with one of my brethren. Dwelling here will not bode well for you. You must make haste to the woods of Faron," Eldin notified them before the light faded from the spring and the great spirit along with it.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Tetra wondered, daring to break the silence after a full minute.

"Nothing good," Link said, a serious look taking over his features as he turned around to retrieve the horses from where they'd left them, "Come on." Kid followed him obediently, hoping that the light spirit was mistaken. The more he thought about it though, the more his hope dwindled. They'd been attacked numerous times already. Something was going on; there was no debating the matter.

He climbed onto Epona's back and Link mounted the horse behind him. The girls hurried to mount the princess's horse and in no time they were off. They passed the still spring on the way out but Kid barely gave it a second glance.

"I thought you said that you saved the land from evil before," Tetra called to Link as Princess Zelda's horse ran alongside Epona.

"I did," Link confirmed, "It's not the same evil from before."

"How do you know it's not?" Kid inquired.

"Because, the person that was behind it all is dead," Link replied. Kid wasn't sure he wanted to know who that person had been, so he didn't ask.

"Well, then what is this evil?" Tetra wanted to know.

"I don't know," Link admitted.

The rest of the ride was executed in silence. They had to slow their pace for the benefit of the horses, and when night fell they had no choice but to stop. No matter how urgent the situation, they knew that they'd be useless if they were tired, so they all dismounted and shared a brief meal before laying down to sleep. Much to their surprise and relief the night passed without incident.

In the morning the sun rose as it always had and birds chirped a calming morning song. It rivaled the screeching call of the seagulls and Kid welcomed the pleasant sound, wishing he could hear it more often. Dew sparkled on the gently swaying blades of grass as if the silver stars of dusk had fallen to earth once the dark veil of night broke, scattering themselves among the green of the ground.

After a quick breakfast they mounted their steeds and progressed the rest of the way to the woods. It took about a half hour to reach Faron's Spring. Kid dismounted after Link and the foursome stepped closer to the edge of the water.

Princess Zelda bowed her head to call the spirit, but there was no need. The voice of the light spirit echoed around them, bouncing off the bark of the trees. It was not the greeting nor the wise words that Kid come to expect from the holy spirits. Instead Faron spoke a mere six words. Six ominous words that chilled him to the bone even though he had no idea what they meant.

"Beware…A shadow being…It approaches."